An intensive care unit also sometimes known as a critical care unit, or an intensive therapy department, is a ward that can be found in most hospitals. It provides intensive care (treatment and monitoring) for people who are critically ill. At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, it is combined with the high dependency unit and together they are known as critical care department.
Patients in critical care need more detailed medical support to help them recover. They may not be able to breathe on their own and they may have multiple organ failure. Medical equipment might be needed to take the place of these functions while the person recovers.
Many patients need sedation and pain killing drugs to help keep them settled and comfortable whilst in critical care. These may make patients drowsy but where possible critical care staff will continue to tell them and their families what is happening and explain treatment.
Here at Gateshead, we have excellent staff working in our critical care department, including one of only three hospitals in north east England that has a consultant from respiratory medicine and anaesthetics as part of the consultant group.
Due to the complex needs of our patients, one nurse will look after one patient in the intensive care unit. On the high dependency unit one nurse looks after two patients. While patients are on critical care, their care is overseen by the consultant on duty and they may also be under the care of a consultant from another speciality. For example, if they have had surgery, they will also be under a consultant surgeon. These consultant teams work very closely together to plan patient care.